By MELINDA DESLATTE
Associated Press Writer
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — If forced to cut more than $175 million from the next budget, LSU system officials said they would have to lay off at least 1,900 employees, eliminate dozens of courses, shut down research programs and possibly suspend all athletics at the University of New Orleans.
System President John Lombardi said the cuts proposed Wednesday for the fiscal year that begins July 1 could jeopardize accreditation for some campuses, would lower the educational quality for students and would damage the universities' ability to compete nationally.
The cuts might not come, however.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration asked colleges to propose how to reduce spending next year, and the LSU System's top range cut was $175.8 million — on top of $29 million already slashed this year. That would be a 13 percent reduction to the nearly $1.4 billion university system's annual budget.
Under the worst-case scenario, LSU "will no longer be capable of competing among America's significant public university systems, its flagship will lose its place in the competition among American flagship institutions and its campuses and medical enterprises will find themselves dramatically behind the rest of the South," Lombardi wrote in the document.
Proposals include laying off 650 faculty and more than 1,250 support employees at the system's 11 institutions, increasing class sizes, shortening library hours, cutting student services and closing two of the eight academic departments at LSU-Alexandria.
"It's scary, and it's going to have a dramatic impact on the LSU System statewide," said Charles Zewe, a spokesman for the LSU System.
Also proposed: cutting travel and supplies, reducing campus publications and student activities and shutting down agricultural extension and research programs.
University support of the National World War II Museum and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans would be eliminated. Emergency room care and patient services at the LSU-run public hospitals would be reduced, and some outpatient programs would be eliminated.
But none of the cuts are certain.
Jindal's financial advisers sought proposals across state-funded agencies for possible reductions as they cope with an expected $1.2 billion drop in state general fund income. Higher education, one of the largest areas of state discretionary spending, is among the most vulnerable and was assigned one of the deepest cut possibilities.
But Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis, the governor's top budget adviser, said the figures were preliminary and don't necessarily reflect what will be suggested when the governor's 2009-10 budget proposal is delivered to lawmakers in mid-March.
"As I have said, these reduction goals are subject to change, and most likely will change ... However, it is necessary for agencies to prepare for what could be their worst-cases scenarios,"
Davis said in a statement Wednesday.
She didn't comment directly on LSU's budget proposal, saying she had yet to receive it.
After Jindal submits his budget recommendations, the Legislature will hammer out the final spending plan for next year.
Lawmakers are considering tapping into the state's "rainy day" fund and other pots of unspent state money to fill gaps next year and are hoping that economic stimulus proposals in Congress will provide budget aid to Louisiana.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.